A letter from Superintendent Jody Monroe regarding commercial drone photography around schools:
Dear BC family:
On Thursday, Oct. 12, an aerial drone camera was spotted over Slingerlands Elementary School and subsequently at Eagle Elementary School, with both sightings taking place during the school day. When first seen at Slingerlands, Principal Andrew Baker immediately contacted School Resource Officer Mike Berben, a Bethlehem Police Department detective, and asked for his assistance.
Detective Berben immediately investigated the situation. After determining that no prior authorization had been given by the school district for the photography, Detective Berben located the drone operator and questioned the individual. The investigation revealed the individual is an FAA-licensed drone pilot who is employed by CoStarGroup, a large firm providing commercial and residential real estate information. The police department confirmed that the individual is an employee of CoStarGroup and determined that the drone was being used for commercial purposes on behalf of the company.
While the presence of a drone over our schools without authorization is unsettling, both the police department and the school district’s legal counsel have advised the district that there are no laws prohibiting this use of a licensed drone in the airspace over our schools, a fact that may be equally unsettling for families and for the district itself.
In light of this information and in partnership with the Bethlehem Police Department, we have taken the following actions:
- Officials from the CoStar Group today agreed to notify both the school district and the Bethlehem Police Department BEFORE any future projects or aerial photography by CoStar around district schools;
- All schools will be directed to have staff bring students inside if a drone is spotted in the area of the school;
- The district has filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about the disruption to schools of these drone flights; and
- I have contacted our elected representatives directly to request legislation be introduced that would prohibit drone photography above our schools without the express permission of the school district.
The Bethlehem Police Department has also issued a statement regarding yesterday’s drone incident (linked here on the department’s Facebook page). I appreciate the strong working partnership the district has with the department, especially with Det. Berben and Det. Caitlyn Krage, our other full-time School Resource Officer. These officers are integral members of our school community. The Bethlehem Police Department has also provided additional patrols around our school this week as a result of heightened global tensions. We appreciate their hard work and commitment to our schools.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.
Superintendent of Schools